Are We Ready?

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I had ONE more day of school left. There were 10 days left until my due date. After that last day of school I would …

  • paint the crib
  • wash the baby clothes given as gifts
  • decorate the baby’s room
  • pack my bag for the hospital
  • clean house so that all was ready for my return with the new baby

My water broke that night and I delivered our first-born – Benjamin Baruch Woody – on June 9th – the last day of school.

I was NOT ready. The “stuff” was NOT ready.

Benjamin was ready – God was ready.

Our pastor touched on this very issue Sunday during the sermon. We make plans and prepare according to those plans. Yet we are often surprised by the timing of events and the way things happen. God is NOT surprised.

I was SURE I would have 10 days to prepare for the birth of our first child after I finished that year of teaching.

Thankfully my mother was already here and was able to deliver the report cards to my kindergarten students at Almond School. She and Phil got everything else ready the two days I was in the hospital.

This is such a clear picture of how we often view our lives. We make plans and then difficulties in life happen. Those trials can turn our world upside down. Situations occur that we have NO plans for like;

  • a house burning down
  • the death of a loved one
  • cancer of other illness
  • an accident

God is not surprised by any of these situations – these situations are opportunities for God to demonstrate His faithfulness and great love for us.

Demonstrate His love? By the death of a loved one?

God wants us to be ready to face all of life that comes our way. We do that by being ready to trust God no matter what happens. Just as in natural birth, a baby comes when it is ready, we must be ready to respond in faith to the circumstances of our lives.

Is that easy? No. Birth is not easy either, but the end result is WORTH the pain and suffering. So is trusting God. In John 16 Jesus is preparing His disciples for the time when He will leave them. Jesus says –

21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

Jesus goes on to say –

31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus’s disciples were about to watch Him be beaten and crucified. Their world would be shattered!

But Jesus reminds them that He has overcome the world – take heart! He is saying that same thing to you and me.

Are we ready?

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It’s Not About Me

granddaughters[1]

Once we as women experience a pregnancy, we get a true picture of what it means for our bodies to not be our own. We feel that little life (or lives) moving inside and we realize it is no longer about us. We may feel sick from certain smells that never bothered us before pregnancy, we also may crave certain foods for no apparent reason. We are no longer in charge and often don’t even understand the changes taking place in our own bodies. This is just the beginning.

Romans 12:1 says “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

As a mother of young children your body is a living sacrifice. You are no longer your own. You get up in the morning, change diapers, breastfeed, have meals, tend to chores (when able) and meet others’ needs all day long according to their schedule, not your own. A loving mother sacrifices her own wants and needs for her family.

I can still remember thinking when our four children were small that I would never feel rested again.

I couldn’t imagine getting enough rest. Yet, God convicted me with the truth of the above scripture one day at our home group. The home group leader, Phil, asked us to think about what in our lives were hindrances to worship. The immediate response that came to my mind was “my children”! Then I felt shame.

These children were gifts from God!

Why did I see them as a hindrance? Because I did not see my service to them as significant in God’s eyes. I thought a “ministry” was more important. Yet, the Lord showed me those children were my ministry at that time. NOTHING was more important. Offering my body as a living sacrifice WAS an act of worship – one very pleasing to our Lord.

As we contemplate this Easter weekend the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, let us embrace the sacrifices we make as mothers  – moment by moment, day by day.

Jesus is our example – He laid down His life.

As His follower, I must present myself a living sacrifice and recognize it as an act of worship.

…. with love and thankfulness for the redemption of Jesus’ resurrection – have a blessed Resurrection Day!

Unplanned Pregnancy?

Abi and Caleb

Everywhere we look this season there are reminders of the birth of Jesus – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I love that.

It may be commercial and less than sincere at times, but I love the fact that Jesus is acknowledged and celebrated in front yards, in light displays, in store windows, and many public places. Stars reminiscent of the star over Bethlehem shine from the tops of trees, buildings, and mountains.

Yet for his earthly parents, Jesus conception created some very real concerns.

Mary did not plan her pregnancy – in fact the timing was very problematic. She was engaged to marry Joseph. How would he take this news? It took a visit to Joseph by an angel to validate the legitimacy of Mary’s pregnancy. She was also near the end of her pregnancy when her husband said that they must travel to Bethlehem. Before prenatal visits and ultrasounds Mary did not know her “due date”. Yet, God had it all prepared according to His plan. He knew just when and where His Son would be born. He had angels ready to announce it to the shepherds and placed an extraordinarily bright star to shine over the birthplace. Even though there was no room in the Inn, God chose a place that has allowed people from every tongue and nation to identify with the lowly birth of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings – Jesus.

In Luke 1: 46 -49 – Mary praises God for what the angel told her about her impending pregnancy.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Mary knew in her heart that God was in control of her life and her pregnancy. What a place of peace and rest! Mary did not know what the future held – but she knew He who held her future.

I had an “unplanned” pregnancy. Statistically, about 50% of the mothers reading this did as well. I would not change the birth of that precious child for anything in this world. God knew what He was doing and I am so thankful!

I learned something from a friend years ago. The Bob Bryan family had three older children and a gap of about 17 years and then another child. People often asked if this late-in-life baby was planned. Bob would answer “Yes, this baby was planned from the foundations of the world.” What a true and meaningful response!

Each baby is planned by God as stated in Jeremiah – “I knew you when you were formed in your mother’s womb.” There are no “accidents” in God’s plan for each life.

As we celebrate with our children and grandchildren this year, may we remember that each child was planned by God and each has immeasurable value because of that fact. May we all treasure these moments to celebrate Jesus birth together and as Ann Voskamp states –

“May God’s greatest gift be our greatest joy.”

Merry Christmas!

Angel Adahlyn

 

Serve Him 2014 – #3

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“You are pregnant!”

Do those words strike fear in your heart?
Are they a long desired and anxiously awaited announcement?
Is your first thought…”No way…not me”?

Let’s look at a record of the most famous pregnancy in all of history – Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Mary found out about her pregnancy from an angel. That was quite an annoucement!

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Her first, and natural response was – this cannot be!
Mary was a virgin. Yet here was this angel telling her she was pregnant, and that the child she bore was to be the Son of God!

Now think about this for a moment. As Christians we want to serve God. We want to have our lives make a difference and count for eternity. Yet, what if Mary had answered God the way we often do when called to serve Him. Our responses often sound like this:

* I’m not good enough.
* I’m not smart enough.
* I’m too busy.
* I’m too afraid.
* I’m tired.

Well, you might say – if an angel came and told me how to serve God – that would be different.

Would it?

Just because an angel announced this birth – this news brought with it some big concerns. Mary had to face
• Telling Joseph
• Telling her mother and friends
• Mothering the Son of God – now that is BIG!

Yet… Luke 1:38 records her response. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

That is how I must respond when I recognize the service God has called me to – I am your servant, may I fullfill your will.

Remember – Service to God is not based on my
• Talents or Abilities
• Preferences
• Education
• Moods

God may use our talents, preferences, education, and even our moods –
BUT the choice is HIS!

Joy in service comes when we can say as Mary did in verses 46 – 49

46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
Holy is his name.

May we respond as Mary did when He calls us to serve.
May ALL we do be service for God’s honor and glory.

Amen.

Easter Blessing

Our tenth grandchild was born yesterday on Easter Sunday. Each of these precious little ones is a blessing! I can remember wondering when I was pregnant with our second child whether I could possibly love #2 as much as I loved #1. My heart was full of love for our first child – how could another child fit in? (To this day, #1 thinks he is my favorite!) Each of our children is my favorite.

I remember a wise older mother telling me – “You think you can never love another child as much as the first since you love them with all your heart. God just expands your heart and gives you more love.” I think that is true. As each child arrived, I didn’t love the older children any less, I just had more love to share with each one. As I looked at this newest little grandchild yesterday, I was once again overwhelmed with love for this new addition to our family. Each one is precious and fills a special place in Nana’s expanding heart!

Easter is the ultimate expression of love – God’s great love for us.  God sent His only Son to die for our sins. That is His love made flesh for us. He rose again and lives in us, His children, through His Holy Spirit. We may believe from time to time that God loves some of His other children more than He loves me. Many Christians are smarter, better looking, funnier, kinder –  the list could go on and on – than I am.  Surely God must love them more because He blessed them with these special attributes.

That is a LIE. 

I Corinthians 12: 12-20

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

I don’t think it is a stretch to associate this scripture with the unique qualities various members of our families have. How would our family function if we were all the same? (how BORING)

Paul goes on to say –

1 Corinthians 12:20-26 (NIV)

20As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 
God’s great, unconditional love for us is the attitude we want to permeate our families. Each adult and child has limitless value in God’s kingdom. The fact that Jesus died and rose for each of us demonstrates His great love. Let’s make our families a reflection of God’s love  – a place where each person has value!

Joy!

I was blessed to attend a women’s conference in Hickory this weekend with two of our daughters. The main speaker was very good, but the thing that blessed me the most was the fact that the ladies who coordinated this event did not feel the need to just  “bring in big names” as speakers. They had asked some local women to speak in the break-out sessions and they did a wonderful job sharing from God’s Word. One speaker, Carol, shared about “Consider it Pure Joy”  from James 1 and there were several things she said that really spoke to my heart.

Throughout my life, since the time I was a very small child, people have said that I have a lot of  “joy”.  That may be because I smile often – and that gives the impression that I have joy. Yet, truth be known, joy is much more than smiles or happy faces. Carol shared that joy is defined as the “prospect of possessing what you most desire.”  (Webster’s Dictionary) When I am planning to spend the weekend with our grandchildren, I am filled with joy!!! The prospect of their happy faces, hugs, and “I love, you, Nana” all fill my heart with joy  – which says that being with my grandchildren is something I desire.

I remember being THRILLED when we found out we were pregnant with our first child. Becoming a mother was something I greatly desired. Joy was the result. Yet, two and one-half years later, when I found out I was pregnant with #3, my first reaction was NOT joy.

  • my milk dried up and #2 was just 6 months old
  • our 1st two children were still in diapers
  • my body was spent
  • we lived in a two bedroom apartment, both tiny bedrooms

There was no joy –  because I did not desire another child at that time. The problem was NOT the pregnancy – the real problem was my desire. As I prayed and allowed God to adjust my desires , I began to anticipate the birth of our third child. It was not an overnight change, but gradually I realized that God’s timing is perfect –  irregardless of my desires. As I began to desire the birth of our precious 3rd child, my heart changed and joy was the result!

I still had to

  • stop breastfeeding
  • have 3 children in diapers at the same time
  • put 3 cribs in a small bedroom
  •  and feel tired.

My joy was restored by God’s grace. Those of you who know our 3rd child know what joy she brings to our family and all those who know her. God’s plans for us are so much greater than our plans!!

The challenge for all of us is to desire the right things. First and foremost – we should desire God.

Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

11 You make known to me the path of life;
   you will fill me with joy in your presence,
   with eternal pleasures at your right hand

This scripture shows that the Psalmist desired to know God’s path and the reward was fullness of joy!

If we do not feel joy, we must examine our hearts and ask what do we desire?  Fullness of joy is worth adjusting our desires!

Holy Pregnancy

Being pregnant during the season of Christmas gives a fresh and poignant meaning to the Christmas story. 

Luke 2: 4-7  The Kings James Version says … ” And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David.  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

        And Mary, being great with child…   As far as being “great” with child, there are several meanings for the word “great”:

Great as in wonderful

Great as in large

Great as in significant.

I have felt all these meanings of “great” when I was pregnant, not necessarily at the same time or throughout my pregnancy.  We have two daughters who are currently pregnant. Each expressed to me last week that she was feeling “great” as in “large”. Each is also past the first trimester, so they are not experiencing that tired or queasy feeling any longer – they are also feeling “great” as in wonderful. One of these pregnancies was “planned” by the parents – one was not.

I say planned by the parents because I learned something from a friend years ago. The Bob Bryan family had three older children and a gap of about 17 years and then another child. People often asked if this late-in-life baby was planned. Bob would answer “Yes, this baby was planned from the foundations of the world.” What a true and meaningful response!

Each baby is planned by God as stated in Jeremiah – “I knew you when you were formed in your mother’s womb.” There are no “accidents” in God’s plan for each life.

Mary did not plan her pregnancy – in fact the timing was very problematic. It took a visit to Joseph by an angel to validate the legitimacy of Mary’s pregnancy. She was also near the end of her pregnancy when her husband said that they must travel to Bethlehem. Before prenatal visits and ultrasounds Mary did not know her “due date”. Yet, God had it all prepared according to His plan. He knew just when and where His Son would be born. He had angels ready to announce it to the shepherds and placed an extraordinarily bright star to shine over the birthplace. Even though there was no room in the Inn, God chose a place that has allowed people from every tongue and nation to identify with the lowly birth of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings – Jesus.

In Luke 1: 46 -49 –  Mary praises God for what the angel told her about her impending pregnancy.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

As we celebrate this Christmas season, we can also celebrate the fact that each child we have is planned by God – through birth, adoption, or foster care. As Mary did, we praise God for the great things He has done, greatest of all sending His Son, Jesus.